Health trends affect real estate market

Tim Whitney
Tim Whitney

According to the World Health Organization, health and wellness most often refers to the optimal state of health of individuals and groups. There are two focal concerns: the realization of the fullest potential of an individual physically, psychologically, socially, spiritually and economically as well as the fulfillment of one’s role expectations in the family, community, place of worship, workplace and other settings.

Once considered “alternative medicine,”  the luxury pursuit of wellness and other forms of self-improvement has become mainstream. This approach has been commonly promoted in progressive companies and schools with personal wellness programs and marketed directly to health-conscious individuals.

Supporters of this trend claim there are many factors that contribute to wellness:  living in a clean environment; eating healthy food; regular physical exercise; spiritual awareness; and balance in career, family and relationships.

In addressing the economic and real estate climate, health and wellness trends have significant effects.

To site some examples in the Grand Valley, just consider these businesses: athletic and outdoor clothing and equipment stores, fitness clubs, health food outlets, juice bars and yoga and Pilates studios. That’s not to mention the organic food and so-called green energy industries.

Health and wellness has expanded beyond medical settings into industrial, office and retail settings. The enactment of the Affordable Care Act combined with the need for convenience in delivering health care services has changed the way some medical providers look at retail centers now instead of typical medical offices. Doctors, dentists and diagnostics centers have moved from the old-fashioned, sterile-looking medical office environment into flashier and well-located retail spaces — including regional malls in some cases.

Meanwhile, such major drug store chains as Walgreens and CVS and even some major grocery store chains have added in-store clinics where customers can get a flu shot or seek treatment for a minor ailment and then have their prescriptions filled. This emphasis on customer convenience in medical care has even shifted where we go when we get a toothache. 

As this trend continues, shopping center owners are taking advantage of this opportunity to fill empty spaces that were once leased by more traditional retail tenants.

Health and wellness trends are expected to continue to gain traction, in turn affecting the commercial real estate industry in many ways.